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Elmer Allen COURTESY OF FREDNA ALLEN To Bury Our Fathers Continued from page 1 dom of Information Act request, there was a reference to a letter written to a physician in Italy, Texas, a small town south of Dallas. “I got the report, looked at it and saw Italy, Texas,” Welsome said. “And I knew that had to be a small Texas town.” \(Welsome, a 1980 University of Texas journalism graduate, started at a small Texas weekly newspaper, then worked her way up through the Beaumont Enterprise, the nowdefunct San Antonio Light and the San Antonio Express-News. “San Antonio was a city where we did two-fisted journalism, competing against the other paper. We didn’t do New-Age, feel-good journalism, we covered the news. It wasn’t the best journalism but it was honest and it wasn’t pretentious.” From San Antonio, Welsome moved to Albuquerque, where she began working at the Tribune “By then, I had a lot of information on the people, I knew their dates of birth, dates of death, dates of injection, whether there had been an exhumation or an autopsy. I called the city hall [in Italy] and asked about an elderly black man with his left leg amputated. They told me that would have to be Elmer Allen.” Two days later, Welsome was in Elmerine Whitfield’s Dallas home, matching the details of the life of the man she had come to know by his Atomic Energy Commission Code name, Cal-3. To Elmerine Whitfield, Cal-3 was Elmer Allen. “I didn’t hear from Eileen much after that,” Whitfield said. “She went to Italy the next day to talk to my mother. And then the story came out, and I couldn’t believe how much information that she and my mother put together.” The story Welsome wrote more than a year later, as part of a three-part Tribune series that ran in mid-November of last year, told how in 1944 a Pullman porter working in El Paso met a young graduate of Tillotson who was traveling to Los Angeles to visit her aunt. From El Paso Elmer Allen followed Fredna Handley back to her home town of Italy and by September they were married. The couple moved to Richmond, California, near Oakland, where Elmerine and her brother William were born. A week before their second wedding anniversary, a train in Chicago jolted to a halt, and Elmer fell on his left knee. What seemed to be a minor accident quickly created a chronic problem with Elmer’s knee and changed the course of Elmer and Fredna Allan’s lives. Almost a year later, when Elmer Allen walked into the outpa tient clinic at the University of California Hospital in San Francisco for treatment, he was selected for an experiment in which he would be, without his consent or knowledge, injected with plutonium. After the injection, his left leg would be amputated. “They told him he had cancer and that was why his leg was amputated,” Fredna said in an interview at her home. “We didn’t know any better so we believed them.” According to Welsome’ s reporting, those conducting the experiment never suggested that plutonium had any therapeutic value, but, rather, recognized its carcinogenic potential. In fact, the experiments were a response to an incident in which 10 milligrams of plutonium exploded in the face of a Manhattan Project scientist, who survived and is still living. From information gathered from memos circulated among a group of scientists that included Glenn Seaborg, the Nobel prizewinner who was a co-discoverer of plutonium; J. Robert Oppenheimer, the Manhattan Project scientist who gets much of the credit for the development of the first atomic bomb; and Berkeley scientist Louis Hempelmann, Welsome pieced together the decision-making process that led to the plutonium experiments conducted on at least 18 unknowing individuals. \(In an interview with Welsome, Seaborg was distressed and said experiments were approved for animals “As for the biological sides of the work, which may involve animal, or even human experimentation, I feel that it is desirable if these can in any way be handled elsewhere, not to undertake them here,” Oppenheimer wrote in mid-August of 1944. By the end of the month a study that would include “tracer experiments of humans to determine the percentage of plutonium excreted daily,” had been approved. The ideal subjects, according to what Welsome learned, would be “ordinary people with one thing in common: life-threatening illnesses that made survival beyond 10 years `highly improbable.’ “I don’t know if the amputation was necessary or unnecessary,” said Whitfield. “I would have to talk with a doctor. With the medical technology in the ’40s, I’m not sure they could repair the knee. But I do know that he didn’t have the [cancerous] sarcoma they said he had or he wouldn’t have lived for more than five years.” For Elmer Allen the loss of his leg, and the intuitive knowledge that some wrong had been done to him at the San Francisco hospital, utterly changed his life. “He was a Pullman car porter,” his daughter said, “a very good job for an African American in 4 APRIL 8, 1994